Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lugz Revolt Shoes Giveaway on the At The Fence Blog

Blog: At the Fence

Prize: Lugz Revolt Shoes

Great present for Father's Day!

Super Luke Faces His Bully Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations goes out to Shauna B. She won a copy of Super Luke Faces His Bully by Dr. Jackie C. Cogswell. I have emailed the winner. She has 72 hours to respond before a new winner is selected.

Thanks to all who participated. Look for more giveaways coming soon.

Diary of a Book Loving Busy Mom - Free E-Book Addict

Friday, February 24, 2012 

Help! I’m a free e-Book addict. I can’t control myself. Each day I scan websites filled with listings of free e-Books and postings on Facebook, hoping to find something to add to my collection of over 200 free titles. I have my favorite genres (mystery, historical fiction, true crime, biography) but it doesn’t matter what genre it is—if the book blurb sounds good, I download it. I enter giveaways on other blogs for free e-books too. I would have to do nothing but read for the next year in order to catch up, but I can’t stop. 

My family is getting concerned. I tell them I am working when I’m hiding in my office late at night, but they must suspect something. Who works that many hours without getting paid? I hope they don’t try to schedule an intervention. I don’t know what I would do without my daily fix.

Book Review: The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson

If you've ever dreamed of being your own boss, creating your own schedule, and achieving financial freedom, The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson is the book for you. Filled with inspirational stories and no-nonsense advice Wilkerson shows you how to determine your motivation for wanting to work for yourself, what mistakes to avoid, and what you need to be successful.

The Barefoot Executive isn't a how-to book that takes you step-by-step through how to start your own business. Instead, it is a book that motivates and encourages your dreams. You'll discover how to take skills you already have, determine what business model you're interested in, and how to be successful in the marketplace. Even in crowded markets you can be successful because you are unique and offer your own unique perspective. You can provide the answers to the questions people are asking.

Wilkerson doesn't sugar-coat anything. She doesn't tell you it's going to be easy or that it will happen overnight. She does, however, inspire with her success and the success of others whose stories you'll find featured in the numerous case studies throughout the book. She has an engaging conversational style that makes readers move swiftly through the book. She asks questions that demand answers and gets you thinking about what skills you have that can create an income stream. She speaks of the importance of mentors and mastermind groups, because surrounding yourself with the right kind of people can make a difference.

As a wife and mother, Wilkerson had a decision to make about her future. She opted to live life on her terms. The Barefoot Executive can help you do the same.

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 23, 2011)
ISBN-10: 159555369X
ISBN-13: 978-1595553690
SRP: $24.99
Also available in electronic and audio formats.

I received a free e-Copy of this book from the author's representative in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Christmas in July Giveaway Hop

We will be participating in the Christmas in July Giveaway Hop sponsored by Just Married with Coupons, Matter of Cents and Sweep Tight.

Since the last two weeks of July are also our summer fun theme, I'll be giving away some prizes that tie in. Stayed tuned for more details.

If you would like to sign up for this hop, you can visit one of the sponsors at:

Product Review: The Original Dish Drying Mat

At the beginning of May I won The Original™ Dish Drying Mat from a blog giveaway. I was really excited, because I have one of those plastic drain boards underneath my wrought iron drying rack and it looked kind of tacky. It also took up too much room. I had tried towels, but they aren't absorbent enough.

I've been using The Original Dish Drying Mat for about three weeks and I truly love it. This one is a pretty sage green color to match my kitchen decor. At 16" x 18" it is smaller than my plastic drain board, which is a big plus around here because we lack counter space. Sometimes I use it underneath my drying rack and other times I use it alone. I place everything from silveware to dishes to pots and pans to glasses on it. It can be hung up to dry and then folded to store it away. Perhaps the nicest feature is that The Original Dish Drying Mat can be tossed into the washing machine and dryer. My daughter was using it today for a mat while she scooped out wet cat food for our furry beasties. Sure enough, she dropped cat food on it. I picked up the mat and tossed it in the washing machine and it came out looking great. I don't usually toss mine in the dryer, but it says you can.

This hasn't totally replaced my plastic drain board because I often let my dishes air dry. So, by the time I'm ready to remove the dry dishes, it's time to wash dirty ones. I tend to handwash a lot of things because they can't go in the dishwasher. That means, I have to give the drying mat a break to dry out, but I still need something under the drying rack. So, I've kept my plastic drain board to use occasionally, but I'm loving The Original Dish Drying Mat.

I received a free product from a blog giveaway, but was not required to write a review. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to share my thoughts.

Golf Clubs Make A Nice Father's Day Gift

My father is a huge golfer. When I was a kid, he never missed a Sunday morning on the green. I remember him tossing his black and white golf bag into the trunk of the station wagon and taking off so early my mother wasn't even dressed yet.

When my husband told me he seriously wanted to explore gold lessons, I thought it would be a nice idea to consider purchasing him a set of golf clubs for Father's Day. Cleveland® Golf opened its doors in 1979, and has grown to become one of the forerunners of product innovation. With clubs and accessories for men and women, you'll find everything you need to get your game on.

What I thought was really interesting when I visited Cleveland Golf's website is that they allow golfers to create customized golf wedges. You can choose the fit that is best for you, then customize the paint, logo, text and more. I bet my dad would love to do this.

If you know a golf-loving Dad, he might enjoy a gift from Cleveland Golf.

This post is sponsored by Cleveland Golf.

WSJ Wednesdays: Getting Outdoors is Good for You

In the Saturday/Sunday, May 26 -27, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal, I came upon this article by Jonah Lehrer titled, "Mom Was Right: Go Outside." While many discussions about getting outside talk about the physical benefits, Lehrer's article tackles the mental benefits of unplugging from our technology driven world and spending time with nature. It spoke of studies performed by various groups that reflect the difference in performance on creativity tests, moods, short-term memory, and the behavior of children with attention-deficit-disorder.

I know I feel better when I step away from the computer and spend time in the garden. I feel refreshed and able to tackle my indoor tasks with renewed vigor. I'm trying to walk around the neighborhood a few times a week. My schedule has been crazy, so I haven't done it as often as I would like, but the kids will be out of school soon, so I need to get cranking on that.

How much time to you think you spend outdoors each week? What are some of the obstacles that prevent you from spending more time outdoors?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Day in History - May 29, 1862

I' m a lover of history. Always have been. I especially enjoy early American history--Colonial times and the Civil War era. My Civil War library is the only one that rivals my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. I took a Civil War course in college, which allowed me to read one of the best books on the conflict, Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson. I thought it might be interesting to share some historical tidbits from this and other historical eras. We might also touch upon sports history, music history or entertainment history. I hope you'll provide feedback on these posts, so I know if you are enjoying them.

On this day in history in 1862, P. G. T. Beauregard began moving troops out of Corinth, Mississippi. Beauregard was born in Louisiana and became a prominent general in the Civil War for the Confederate States Army. Trained at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Beauregard served in the Mexican-American War. After the Southern states seceded, Jefferson Davis was named president of the Confederacy. Davis appointed Beauregard as a general to take command of the militia and big seacoast guns and mortars in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. Beauregard's objective was to take control over Fort Sumter, which was running out of supplies and awaiting relief. General Beauregard demanded the surrender of the fort, but U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson refused. The Confederates opened fire on April 12, 1861. Anderson surrendered the following day and the fort was evacuated, giving the Confederates their first victory of the Civil War.

With the help of forces from General Joseph E. Johnston, General Beauregard would seize another victory in July 1861, during the First Battle of Bull Run, or as the South calls it, First Manassas. He is credited with designing the new Confederate flag to avoid confusion between the "stars and bars" and the "stars and stripes" of the United States flag.

Because Beauregard did not get along well with Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the Confederac. He was sent to Tennessee and became second in command under General Albert Sydney Johnston. By this time, the Confederate Army had witnessed defeat, and they were hoping for a victory. Much of northwestern Virginia was under Federal control and Missouri and Kentucky were Union occupied. At this point, Beauregard and Johnston were poised to attack the Union forces under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant. Beauregard devised a plan for a march by four different corps on converging roads to deploy for battle on April 4th. The inexperienced troops and officers were soon confused, and rain bogged down the wagons and artillery. By April 4th, none of the Confederate troops had arrived where they were supposed to be and Beauregard wanted to call off the attack. He was sure the delays meant that Grant's troops had been reinforced by Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell.

Johnston overruled Beauregard, and though they didn't know it, Grant wasn't expecting an attack. It was an early patrol that found the advancing Confederates and warned a division under the command of Benjamin M. Prentiss. William Tecumseh Sherman commanded the other division that soon found itself under attack by Confederates. Johnston was mortally wounded in the battle and Beauregard assumed command. The Yankees were successful in repelling the multiple Confederate attacks, but their much smaller force under Prentiss surrendered. Fighting by the division under Prentiss allowed Grant time to post his remaining forces along the Pittsburg Landing ridge. Beauregard called off the attack for the night, which would prove to be a mistake.

Confident of victory, Beauregard sent a telegram to Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. What he did not know is that Grant's reinforcements had arrived. The next morning, it was the Yankees who were attacking with surprise. The rebels were pushed back to the original point of their attack. Beauregard ordered his men to retreat to Corinth, Mississippi. On that same day, the Union army-navy team won an important battle in Mississippi. After being at war for a year, morale was low. Many southerners turned against Beauregard because of his defeat at Shiloh. Things weren't going much better for Grant, who was temporarily relieved of command after the initial defeat at Shiloh. His superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck assumed command and slowly advanced on Beauregard.

Beauregard still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Though Corinth was considered a crucial strategic point by the Confederates, Beauregard found the water supply contaminated, and many of his men were still recovering from wounds received at Shiloh. Using the railroad to transport the sick and wounded, along with heavy artillery and supplies, Beauregard planned to fool his opponents by making them think reinforcements had arrived. The train whistle would blow and the troops would cheer, buglers and drummers played, giving Halleck the impression he was facing a much larger force than was actually in Cornith. Beauregard and his troops evacuated. When Union patrols arrived, they found the enemy gone.

Jefferson Davis was angry when he heard the news of Shiloh and Corinth. When Beauregard took an unauthorized leave of absence, he was relieved of command. But this wasn't the last Davis would hear of P.G. T. Beauregard.

Resources: Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1988

Monday, May 28, 2012

You've Got Mail Monday

I hope you and your family had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. The weather was great here, so we cooked out on our anniversary, which was Sunday. The hubby and I have been together for 23 years and married for 12. All three kids were here, along with our daughter-in-law, my son and daughter's godson, and my in-laws. We also got a chance to meet Marley, the teacup chihuahua my son and his wife are taking care of. We had tons of food: steak, chicken, pork, asparagus, carrots, and corn on the cob. The only thing that wasn't cooked on the grill was the corn. Everyone said the food was great, so I was happy.

Last week, the mailman must have forgotten I was here because he didn't send much worth noting for You've Got Mail Monday. The one thing I did receive, however, is exciting. I was contacted to review: the Contour Core Sculpting™ System, LIFEPRO Cold-Filtered Whey Isolate Protein- French Vanilla, and LIFEPRO Cold-Filtered Whey Isolate Protein- Dutch Chocolate.

Over the last year, I've realized I'm not as young as I used to be. What that means is I can't eat whatever I want and not expect to gain weight. Even though I'm still at a decent weight, any pounds I gain end up in the middle. My once flat stomach is much rounder than it used to be. I don't feel comfortable with how I look right now. I figure I'll give the Contour Core Sculpting System a try for the next month and see what happens.

Hope you have a great week.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stay Safe While Swimming

Did you know that May is National Water Safety Month? It's important to educate our families about water safety. Even though both my girls have taken years of swimming lessons, I still take the time to remind them of important safety tips for being in and around water.

  • Never swim alone;
  • Walk, don't run in the pool area;
  • Don't jump on others;
  • No eating while in the pool;
  • Never leave the gate to the pool area open.

We also visit the Outer Banks each summer, so I remind the kids on our first day at the beach and numerous other times while there not to swim out too far and to swim where the lifeguard and their father and I can see them. Not that I'll be much help, I don't swim at all. I've seriously been considering a swimming class, because with the kids being such water bugs, I don't feel comfortable not knowing how to take care of them if they get in trouble. Which reminds me, I need to get recertified in CPR. I haven't taken a class in years.

Summer is a time for cookouts, amusement parks, and swimming. Reminding your family about water safety rules will ensure that you all have tons of fun in the sun!

This post is sponsored by PoolGear Plus®, the Internet's #1 choice for discount swimming pool supplies, swimming pool chemicals, chlorine tablets, pool toys, pool filters, swimming pool pumps, automatic pool cleaners, pool heaters, above-ground swimming pools, pool cleaning supplies, and all other swimming pool accessories.

Friday, May 25, 2012

500 Follower Giveaway--So Close and Yet So Far

Months ago, when this blog was still Books, Products and More!, I announced a 500 follower giveaway. I've eagerly been awaiting the moment I could tell you that all these prizes were up for grabs, but it seems we're stuck at 399 followers between Linky Followers and GFC.

I really want to give you a chance these prizes, so please share our link with your friends. Tell them what you like about The Book Loving Busy Mom's Daily. If you found a recipe or I reviewed a product that made your life easier, please let your friends--and me--know.

Here is what's up for grabs:

Prize Package #1

Prize Package #2

Prize Package #3

Prize Package # 4

Prize #5 - $25 Amazon Gift Card (International)

Our contest will begin once we have reached 500 followers. If you would like to keep up to date on our progress, please do the following:

OBX News - Cape Hatteras Make Dr. Beach's Top 10 List for 2012

Now I know summer is right around the corner. Dr. Beach, Stephen P. Leatherman, has just named his Top 10 List for 2012.

Cape Hatteras, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, claimed the number 10 spot. I was thrilled to hear it. The Outer Banks, or OBX as it's often called, is near and dear to my heart. I can't wait to return at the end of June.

We haven't been all the way out to Cape Hatteras since 2009, when the girls and their father climbed the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Cape Hatteras was the first National Seashore. Though I'm not a surfer, there are always tons of people surfing or Boogie boarding when we visit the OBX in July. Their beaches are so pristine. It's why we keep driving down each summer. And unlike many state owned beaches, the majority in the OBX are free. I've never seen a beach with a fee for parking or entrance in the areas we've visited, but that doesn't mean they don't exist somewhere down there.

We take Route 12 over to Hatteras from where we stay in Kill Devil Hills. It's the only way out there. Last summer during Hurricane Irene, residents of Cape Hatteras were cut off when the road washed away in multiple places. You can see photos here.

This is part of why I am a bit anxious to visit the OBX this year. Some of our favorite places sustained damage from Hurricane Irene. Some have reopened. Others were not so lucky. When The Christmas Shop and Island Gallery--a place we visited each summer--closed for a couple of years, it just wasn't the same traveling out to Manteo. Knowing some of the only haunts or places I've seen as we are driving around have closed, leaves me with an aching heart.

My dream is to live in North Carolina--maybe Charlotte or Raleigh--and have a house in the OBX. If you're looking for a great vacation spot, you can't go wrong with the OBX. There is tons to do for children of all ages.

Free for All Friday: Super Luke Faces His Bully by Dr. Jackie Cogswell

Bullying is an issue that is grabbing attention nationwide. With high-profile suicide cases making the news, schools, churches and parents are getting involved in helping to tackle this issue that hurts families everywhere.

This week's giveaway for Free for All Friday is Super Luke Faces His Bully by Dr. Jackie C. Cogswell. A family physician and former school teacher, Cogswell took the initiative to write a book about teaching children and families to tackle bullying from a Biblical perspective after her own son became a victim.

Super Luke Faces His Bully is a fun loving adventure spoken straight from the heart of a super-sweet eight-year-old bully victim, Luke Giggleheart. The Word of God is used as a lens to examine some of the issues that can make a person act like either a bully or a victim. During this adventure, Luke, our tender-hearted bully victim, learns about fear, being courageous and getting adults to help, while praying for his enemies.

Read an excerpt!

Getting back to growing pains, my most humongous pain was when Bulldog Jones, the fifth grade bully, decided to be my bully. His real name is Harry, but because he is so mean, kids just call him Bulldog. For some reason, Bulldog didn’t like me. I’m not really sure why. My best friend, Mario Martinez, told me that Bulldog doesn’t need a reason to be mean, his hobby is being MEAN!

Mario once got so scared of Bulldog that he developed a red, itchy rash on his face and arms! Bulldog was so mean that he laughed as Mario scratched his arms over and over like a dog with a fresh case of fleas!

Read the reviews!

"I cannot recommend this book highly enough."
--My Devotional Thoughts

"This is the neatest children's book I've seen on the subject of bullying."
--4 the Love of Books

"Bullying is certainly a very real problem that many kids have to face today, so it’s great to see a book written from a Biblical perspective that’s intended to assist those who are dealing with the toxic effects of bullying."
--Home School Book Review

"This book is just plain good! The author uses God’s word to teach principles to your children of all ages how do deal with others doing things to them."
--This Little Book of Mine

"This is a great book with a wonderful message, teaching on repentance and grace, connecting with God's heart, and having joy."
--LadyD Books

Dr. Jackie Chirco Cogswell is a family physician, wife, mother, former school teacher, and now author of a series of Christian children’s novels, the GIGGLEHEART ADVENTURE SERIES. Writing Christian books and reading the Bible has become her passion. In recent years, Dr. Jackie has been led to teach children of all ages how to prevent and stop bullying. As a Christian mother, the issue of bullying became very personal to her when her child was bullied in elementary school. Through the many struggles her son had with bullies, Dr. Jackie learned from firsthand experience how to tackle bullying from a Christian perspective. SUPER LUKE FACES HIS BULLY was inspired by her son’s personal struggle and the good Lord, “Who equips us for every battle and gives us strength.”

Visit Dr. Jackie only at 

Enter for your chance to win a copy of Super Luke Faces His Bully using the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Social Media Frenzy or Publish a Book Giveaway at Linda Weaver Clarke's Blog

Blog: Linda Weaver Clarke’s A Family Friendly Blog

Title of book: Social Media Frenzy or Publish a Book

Author of book: Steve Miller

Genre: Self Help Book

Open to: International

Giveaway Dates: May 25 - 31

Sea Change by Karen White Giveaway Winner

Congratulations go out to Tiffany D. She won a copy of Sea Change by Karen White. I have emailed the winner and she has 72 hours to respond before a new winner is selected.

Thanks to all who participated. A new giveaway will be posted tomorrow.

Diary of a Book Loving Busy Mom: The Field Trip

Monday, May 21, 2012

I can’t believe it! I should be on a bus right now, going on a field trip with the Lil Princess. Instead, karma has caught up with me.

When I offered to give that writing workshop at school, I had no idea her teacher would ask me to go on the field trip. I didn’t really want to go, but I knew the Lil Princess would enjoy having me with her. Don't good moms love field trips? Hmm, what's wrong with me?

The fact is: I like it when the kids are at school and the hubby is at work. Yes, I’m working too—cleaning, cooking, promoting books, blogging—but it’s so peaceful with just me and the four furry beasties. I cherish this time before homework, fighting, and running kids back and forth to events erupt around here. From 3 PM to 9 PM is a blur every weekday. Pretty much, I’ve dreaded going on this field trip since I said yes. Does that make me a horrible mother? Maybe.

Well, this morning I woke up with a nasty stomach virus. I had to call the school and tell them I couldn’t go—unless a bathroom was within 3 feet of everywhere we went. It wasn’t a fun day. Yes, it was nice to sit in bed and rest for a while, but other than that, I felt awful I broke my plans with the Lil Princess.

See what happens when I say yes when I should have said no.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WSJ Wednesdays: Books for Young Entrepreneurs

I try to stay away from book topics for WSJ Wednesdays because I talk about books a lot, but I have to say this article by Emily Glazer caught my eye; especially since I am reading The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson.

In the Monday, May 21, 2102 edition of The Wall Street Journal Glazer spoke to experts who recommended books for young entrepreneurs. Today's world is a fascinating place where children come up with amazing ideas. On Fact Monster you can learn about the edible spoon-shaped cracker invented by Suzanna Goodin because she was tired of cleaning the cat food spoon. You'll also read about Jeanie Low, who invented the Kiddie Stool--a folding stool that fits under the sink so kids can easily pull it out, unfold it, and use it to reach the sink on their own.

The Young Entrepreneur Council believes, "entrepreneurship is a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment." If you search for "young entrepreneurs" on Google, you'll find many organizations dedicated to this group of creative young minds.

Yesterday, the Lil Diva (10) brought me a sheet of paper filled with drawings of what she calls FooFoos. These are little creatures with a variety of facial expressions. There are aliens and angels, a one-eyed creature, and something that looks like a Frankenstein kind of guy. I got to thinking, "Why couldn't FooFoos be the next Squinkies™ or Sillybandz® craze with tons of kids clamoring for them in toy stores around the country?"

You can read Glazer's article here. Perhaps you'll find some books for your little entrepreneur.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Hurry Less Worry Less for Moms by Judy Christie

If there is one thing I understand, it's being a busy mom. Seems the days fly by with little time for any rest or even a moment to catch a breath.

Filled with practical advice and hope, Hurry Less, Worry Less for Moms by Judy Christie will help. This book will empower you to make the needed changes in your life.

As moms, we have the corner on guilty feelings. I missed a field trip with one of the kids yesterday because I woke with a stomach bug. Yes, I managed to get work done, but my heart was heavy all day because my daughter was so looking forward to me coming on her field trip. I sometimes wonder how much of my hectic schedule is caused by not wanting to disappoint someone else.

Even from the beginning I was inspired by Christie's book. In the first chapter, she shares something very important:  "Get to know yourself and your family better, being aware of what makes you tick, your strengths, and the areas that may need improvement. Consider your relationship with God. Depend on others." I think this wraps it up in a nutshell. Too often I focus on the areas for improvement and none of the strengths. Too often I try to go it alone instead of bringing my worries to God or asking others for help.

Hurry Less Worry Less for Moms encourages you to take it one step at at time, learn to say no, focus on what is right for your life at this time, set priorities, learn how to make wise decisions and be truly blessed by your role as a mom. It helps you find more joy, pursue peace in your daily life, build a hopeful heart, and reminds you to lean on God. Pray for your needs and your family's needs. It also talks about one thing that I feel most moms forget--self-care. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our families.

I loved everything about this book and I would recommend it to any mom I know.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 2011)
ISBN-10: 0687659159
ISBN-13: 978-0687659159
SRP: $14.99
Also available for Kindle and Nook

I received a free paperback of this book from the author through Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

You've Got Mail Mondays

Last week flew by and here we are at Monday again. It was a week filled with books, magazines, cat litter, and bills (yuck).

Ernie the postman brought me John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty by the late Mary-Elaine Swanson. I am helping to promote this book. As a lover of American history it should be right up  my alley. I also received Bible Blessings for Bedtime by Linda Carlblom. I blog with Linda over at the Christian Children's Authors blog. I won a copy of this book through a contest she was running. I can't wait to share it with the girls.

Speaking of the girls, recent Land's End and Justice® catalogs arrived. We shopped at Justice this past week too. The Lil Diva seems to have outgrown everything she owns. We came home with new swimsuits for both girls. The Lil Diva bought new sandals, a skirt on clearance (thank God), a shirt, and new strapless bra. The Lil Princess came home with a new pair of capris, a tank top, and a beautiful chiffon top.

The new Lowe's® Creative Ideas for Home and Garden catalog arrived with a great picture of a deck inside that I would love to have. My Gardening How-to magazine for May/June also arrived. They had this neat article on how to create a topiary. I've always wanted to do that.

World's Best Cat Litter™ was kind enough to send me a sample bag of their unscented multi-cat version to try out. As you know, I am always on the lookout to improve the time it takes to clean up that mess. I was surprised when the UPS man dropped it off this week. I thought it would take a bit longer to get here. Look for my review on this coming soon.

That's it for this week's You've Got Mail Monday. I've noticed a slight drop off in blog traffic the past couple of weeks. Please let me know if there is anything else you would like to see here. I made a few changes based upon past feedback, so keep those ideas coming and I'll do what I can.

Thanks for your support.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Getting that Beach Body Ready

Summer is quickly approaching and yet my exercise regime consists of a once a week 20-minute workout. How am I going to get that Beach Body I want for the Outer Banks if I am such a slacker? If I were honest, I would say my desire to exercise is right up there with my desire to have a root canal. I can never seem to make the time for it in my jam-packed schedule, despite knowing I am predisposed to osteoporosis.

An exercise program can help strengthen muscles and improve balance. It also helps improve your overall sense of well-being. As someone who has always struggled with body image issues, exercise could help me feel better about the way I look. I don't feel it's wrong to exercise for your health, while being happy with how you look too.

The thought of a 90 Day Review program is enticing. A training system that would allow me to get in great shape in only 90 days makes me want to sign up right now. If I can get in the habit of exercising over that period of time, then it could lead to a lifestyle change. An Extreme Body Workout would definitely make me feel better and look better. My husband already exercises five days a week. He's also made some diet changes over the past few years. I'm hoping I gain some of his willpower. While I don't eat anywhere near the type of junk I used to, I still need to improve my diet. A complete fitness and nutrition program could make a huge difference in my life.

This is a guest post provided by Fitness Alliance.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pinch A Penny Franchise Opportunities in Florida

Many people I know dream of owning their own business, but are concerned about going it alone. Franchise opportunities are available in Florida with Pinch A Penny®, the largest franchised retail pool, patio and spa company.

Florida is ideal for poolside living. Because of their extensive line of pool and spa care products and experienced knowledgeable staff, pool owners rely on their local Pinch A Penny to be their one-stop resource for everything they need for their pools and spas, along with advice on how to use those supplies.

Pinch A Penny began with the opening of one store in 1975, and has grown to an entire network of stores in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. And they're still growing.

They will be there to help support and encourage your new franchise every step of the way. From sales training and marketing to advertising to an in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects of the business, and more, Pinch A Penny wants you to know you are part of their family and they want you to succeed. The training doesn't stop once you open your doors. Pinch A Penny offers on-going training opportunities for you and your associates.

You can visit their website for more information and to see if a Pinch A Penny franchise opportunity is right for you.

This post is sponsored by Pinch A Penny.

Free for All Friday: Sea Change by Karen White Giveaway

It's time for Free for All Friday. This week I have the pleasure of offering one of my lucky followers a chance to win a copy of Sea Change by New York Times bestselling author, Karen White. I fell in love with Karen's work when I read The House on Tradd Street. I've read the first two books in this series, in addition to Falling Home and Lost Hours. If you love southern fiction, you'll want to enter this giveaway. Karen creates some of the best characters-driven fiction I've ever read.

For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-five, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia.

But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place—or that he obsession with the past could very well destroy her future.

This book is due to be released on June 5th!

Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Good luck!

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Giveaway Winners!

Sorry I am so slow with the announcements this week. Way to much going on and Blogger and IE 9 don't seem to like each other much. There's a long script that runs, which makes it take twice as long to get through the Blogger screens as it used to. Not fun.

Congratulations goes out to Elisha G. She won the Tazo tea.

Congratulations goes out to Alicia H. and June G. They each won a copy of Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard.

Congratulations goes out to Shauna B. She will receive an e-book copy of Desert Intrigue by Linda Weaver Clarke.

All the winners have been notified. A new giveaway will be posted shortly.

Thanks to all who participated.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is There Such a Thing as Too Fair?

Author and fellow blogger, Crystal Bowman, wrote a wonderful post this week offering a tip on dealing with sibling rivalry. She had heard this idea and decided to try it in her own home. Each of her three kids were child for a day twice a week, meaning they got to make the choices for activities such as what TV shows to watch and what music to listen to; but also had responsibilities like setting the table.

I got to thinking about this idea and how much I liked it, but then one other thing came to mind. In our home, we've always tried to keep things "fair" between the two girls. When it was the Lil Princess' birthday, the Lil Diva would get a small gift, and vice versa. Punishments are the same for similar infractions. If the Lil Diva signed up for an activity, the Lil Princess got to select one too. The challenge is that we've created such as strong sense of fairness in our home that they--especially the Lil Diva--can't accept when anything is unfair.

My mother's favorite saying was, "Life isn't fair." I find myself saying that more often as the girls grow and are exposed to different people and experiences. Did our parenting style turn fairness into a liability for our children: create an unrealistic sense of fairness that will be difficult for them to accept and overcome?

How Much Time Do You Spend on the Internet?

In this 2010 comScore Media Matrix survey, it was found that average Americans spend 32 hours a month on the Internet. My age group (35-44) spent the second largest number of hours per month 37.4, while users age (45-54) top the scale at 39.3 hours per month.

I've been thinking lately about how much time I waste browsing the Internet. What would I do with the hours I fritter away each week? Write, research for new projects, monitor investments. Whatever I spent that time on would be more useful than checking our local news sites and email for updates.

I find when I am pushed to the breaking point, so overwhelmed I don't know where to turn, I waste more time online. That's not unusual. It's been shown that one of the reasons we procrastinate is because our schedules are too jam-packed. We need time to wind down. We need to stop saying yes to every volunteer opportunity that comes along. We need time just to snuggle up with our kids and let them know they are loved.

I would probably be amazed by how much time I spend online each week if I tracked it for a month.  How much time do you spend online each week? How much is work related and how much is leisure time? Are there places you can cut back so you aren't browsing the Internet so much?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WSJ Wednesdays - Falling Productivity in the Workforce

This week, we're going to the Friday, May 4, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal for WSJ Wednesday. Conor Dougherty wrote an informative article stating "productivity of U.S. workers fell in the first quarter." He says this data suggests companies are close to reaching the limit of how much they can get from the workforce.

Erik Johnson, an economist with IHS Global Insight concurs. He also believes this means if demand continues to rise while productivity lags, companies will continue to hire and invest in new capital equipment to make workers more efficient.

While Dougherty's article, "Workforce Productivity Falls," takes a strictly financial look at sluggish productivity, it's also important to think about it from a physical and emotional perspective. How long can employers continue to go back to the same till and expect good results? People get burnt out.

How can American employers balance profit with rewards for superior performance?

I've been employed in a variety of industries, and in each place, workers varied in work ethics. Some gave 110% all the time. Others did the bare minimum. The remaining lagged behind everyone else and didn't really care. The challenge remains for employers to find a way to reward those who give it their all consistently, while finding what motivates the other two groups to increase productivity. One of my employers took this seriously, and held classes to teach managers how to be sensitive to the various needs (motivators) of their staff members. Employees were also provided training opportunities throughout the year to better position themselves for advancement.

One thing that must be realized is when people are overwhelmed, productivity is destined to suffer. Investing in capital equipment that improves efficiency can help, but the incentives for good work should not be forgotten, even in the tightest of economies.

What is something an employer has done for you that has made you feel appreciated?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pre-made Marinades or Homemade?

This Sunday was Mother's Day and my in-laws' 56th wedding anniversary, so I decided to invite them over for supper. Since unlike most days lately, the sun was shining, I decide to haul out the grill for steak, ribs and chicken. The ribs came from Schwan’s™ so they were fully cooked and pre-seasoned. They also included a package of barbecue sauce. They were delicious.

When I worked outside the house, I would buy those bottled 30-minute marinades. Now, it just seems like cheating. I never measure when I make my own marinades and I no longer follow a recipe. I simply add ingredients I feel work best for the meat I am cooking and go from there. A few times, this hasn't given me the flavor I was looking for, but it works for the most part. The following two marinades are what I've come up with on my own. If they are similar to something you've seen somewhere else, it's not intentional. I haven't gone scouring the Internet to see if what I toss together for my family is like someone else's mix.

Steak: olive oil, red wine, dry mustard, bay leaves, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

If I had to guess at the measurements, here is what I would say:
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
Toss everything together in a glass bowl, add steak (4- 6 oz.) , cover, and marinate at least 4 hours.

Chicken: lemon juice, fat-free Italian dressing, olive oil, oregano, marjoram, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Estimated measurements:
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Italian dressing
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon of marjoram
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Toss everything together in a glass bowl, add chicken (3 - 4 skinless breasts), cover, and marinate at least 4 hours.

Do you use those pre-made marinades? Do you have a favorite meat you like to marinade?

Tasty Tuesdays: CROCK-POT® Inspired Lemon Pork Chops

Thank goodness for potluck suppers at church or I might not use my CROCK-POT® slow cooker at all. I wish I got a chance to use it more often, but honestly, I rarely find a recipe everyone likes. The hubby and I usually agree, but one of the kids is destined to hate what I prepare. Ah, the joys of motherhood!

This weekend, I decided to use up some pork chops I had bought on sale at the grocery store. I usually get meats at the butcher, but the store had buy 1, get 2 free, so this ended up being a great deal--even if they were bone-in chops.

I thought Lemon Pork Chops would be a good choice, since so many people usually make chicken dishes for our potlucks. I discovered I didn't have all the ingredients to make this dish according to the recipe, but I'm known for substituting wherever I see fit. Everyone raved about the dish, so I decided to share this one with you. I don't have a picture to show, so I apologize for that.

Here is the recipe per the cookbook.

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 3 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced (optional)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large lemon, quartered
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Brown pork chops on both sides. Drain excess fat and discard. Transfer to CROCK-POT slow cooker.
  2. Combine tomato sauce, onion, if desired, bell pepper, lemon-pepper seasoning and Worcestershire. Add to CROCK-POT slow cooker.
  3. Squeeze lemon juice from lemon quarters over mixture; drop squeezed peels into CROCK-POT slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours or until pork is tender. Remove lemon wedges before serving. Garnish with additional lemon wedges, optional.
Here is my recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 4 pork chops
  • 1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

    1. Debone pork chops or use boneless chips and cut into strips. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Lightly brown pork chops. Drain excess fat and discard. Transfer to CROCK-POT slow cooker.
    2. Combine tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, onion, celery, lemon juice, black pepper and Worcestershire. Add to CROCK-POT slow cooker. 
    3. Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or until pork is tender.
    If I made this at home, I would have served it with white rice. The sauce can be ladled over the rice if desired.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    You've Got Mail Mondays

    Not a ton of stuff in my mailbox this week, but definitely things worth the trip down the driveway.
    Chronicle Books--one of my favorite indie publishers--sent me their Fall/Winter 2012 Adult and Gift catalogs. They had sent me their children's one last week (sorry I forgot to mention that). From books to journals to stationery and more, I like browsing to find unique gifts for friends and family. Where else are you going to find Wet Cats Deluxe Notecards?

    The Land's End Home catalog also arrived. I've been admiring their Lifetime Teak™ Chaise Lounge and Adirondack chair. I was surprised to see the back of the catalog featured needlepoint iPad®, Kindle® and Nook® covers. It seems we can't go anywhere without seeing devices and their accessories these days.

    That's it for this week's edition of You've Got Mail Monday. Hope you have a great week.

    Book Spotlight: Picture This by Jacqueline Sheehan

    The poignant and unforgettable sequel to the beloved bestseller Lost & Found; a marvelous tale of life-altering surprises and unanticipated guests

    Peaks Island, Maine, vibrates with its own special magic, a unique flow to life that knits together the small community that calls it home. The people, the animals, and even the houses have a charm and personality all their own. Just ask Rocky Pelligrino. Devastated by her husband Bob's sudden death, she found hope thanks to a relentlessly loyal black Lab named Cooper. Warm friends and a new job—as the island's animal control warden—have helped Rocky chart a course toward a promising future. She's even ready to try love again with Hill, the gentle and patient archery instructor. And there is an old house haunted by lost love and forgotten secrets that speaks to her soul.

    But a phone call from a troubled young woman looking for her biological father shakes Rocky's newfound joy. Could this young girl hold a tendril of the man who was the love of her life? Or could the girl's appearance throw Rocky's world into chaos . . . and shatter her heart again?

    Pre-order at Barnes and Noble and Amazon!

    Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a fiction writer and essayist. She is a New Englander through and through, but spent twenty years living in the western states of Oregon, California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, freelance photography, newspaper writing, clerking in a health food store, and directing a traveling troupe of high school puppeteers. She is currently the fiction editor for Patchwork Journal, an online journal sponsored by Patchwork Farm, an internationally based writing center. Jacqueline teaches workshops on writing and the combination of yoga and writing.

    Visit Jacqueline online at

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Desert Intrigue by Linda Weaver Clarke

    Linda Weaver Clarke and I have been online buddies for a few years now. Her book launch for the latest book in her John and Julia Evans Mystery Series is today. She has generously offered one e-copy of Desert Intrigue to one of my readers.


    When Julia’s brother announces that his dude ranch is haunted, she believes that someone is trying to sabotage his place and force him to sell. The mysterious happenings have to do with Superstition Mountain, the lost Dutchman’s goldmine, and the great Thunder God. Is it possible that the legend of the Thunder God is actually true? After a terrible thunderstorm, everyone begins to wonder. John and Julia quickly head to Mesa, Arizona and discover a few mysterious events. Will they find out who is behind these disasters before Uncle Kelly’s dude ranch is ruined?

    "Desert Intrigue is an entertaining and joyful book, my favorite in this mystery series by Linda Weaver Clarke, which I think would make an excellent TV mini series. I love the sparks of romance in this adventure--they spice things up and add much interest to the story. The book has a handful of surprises that I did not anticipate, and the mystery fuels much of the action."

    --Suko's Notebook

    Read my interview with Linda here.

    Want to win an e-copy of this book! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.

    Good luck!

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    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Save Time When Grilling

    When we first built our home, the hubby and I had no idea what we were doing. He had lived at home with his parents his whole life and I lived in small apartments while I worked three jobs to make ends meet. Now that we've been homeowners for twelve years, it's sometimes frustrating to realize what we did wrong--especially in the kitchen/cooking arena.

    The first quote for our house was significantly higher than the budget we had set. Yes, the banks told us we could afford more, but being conservative with our money, we didn't want to stretch ourselves thin. So, we ended up shrinking the house length and width to bring us closer to our desired number. Didn't seem to be a problem at the time, but try entertaining. Everyone congregates in the kitchen. Even with our open floor plan, it's a tight squeeze between the half wall that separates the work area and the dinette. Our deck, which seemed perfectly placed off the family room, makes grilling a hassle. I have to walk through the kitchen and out the atrium doors of the family room carrying everything I need back and forth. Definitely not the best set up. Once we decide to go through with the renovations, we'll expand the deck so it connects to the back doorway, which is right off the kitchen.

    Because of these challenges, I've had to come up with some time savers for grilling.

    • Store grilling utensils outside. For a few years, I stored my utensils in the house. That was a pain because they were so long and awkward they didn't fit well in most of my cabinets. Now, I store them on the shelf that is hidden behind double doors where the propane tank sits. I use a plastic zippered bag that used to hold a comforter to keep them clean and dry.
    • Heat up the grill while you're gathering supplies. I turn my grill on right before I pack up all I need to take outside. By the time I'm ready to cook, the grill is nice and hot.
    • Invest in a sturdy tray. I want to make as few trips back and forth as possible, so I load up a metal tray with all that it will carry--plates, napkins, cups, condiments--and bring them out all together.
    • Keep a cooler close by. We don't drink alcohol, and I usually make lemonade for cookouts, so I don't need my cooler for beverages. Instead, I use it to haul all the meats and breads outside. With a layer of ice on the bottom, I'm also able to keep the meats from spoiling before I cook them.
    • Make clean up a breeze by storing supplies outside. I usually tuck a container of disinfecting wipes in the deck box where the cushions are stored. If the container is too big, I remove several wipes, put them in a plastic bag that can be sealed and tuck it in between the cushions.
    • Clean your grill after you're done. One of the the reasons we ended up buying a new grill a couple of years ago is because while we were on vacation, our son entertained at our house and used the grill. When we came home, globs of greasy gunk were baked onto the grates. There was no way I was ever using that grill again. I would have needed a chisel and hammer to remove all the days worth of caked on goo. It was also an old grill, so it was almost time to replace it anyway. After I'm done grilling and the family has eaten together, I go out and clean off the grates with a wet paper towel and some dishwashing soap. Then I rinse with a clean paper towel, dry the grates, and wipe on a thin layer of vegetable oil. The oil keeps the food from sticking while it cooks. It also helps prevent rust.
    How do you save time when you grill?

        Wednesday, May 9, 2012

        WSJ Wednesdays - The Secret Online Life of Our Tweens

        New technology is a wonderful thing, but as Katherine Rosman's article titled, Tweens' Secret Lives Online, from the Wednesday, May 2, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal points out, it's brought with it some parenting challenges.

        I don't want to get into to many details of the actual article this time around, but Rosman brings up the influx of new online and mobile products for kids, in addition to the fact that kids who own mobile devices seem to get younger and younger.

        It's great that many companies go to great lengths to ensure the safety of the users of its products, but it seems to get harder and harder to monitor what our kids view and sign up for online. Both my girls have multiple accounts on MovieStarPlanet. I actually had to forbid them to create any new accounts, because I just can't keep track of them all.

        In addition to allowing my children to be creative by putting together videos, MovieStarPlant gives them a chance to interact with their friends and learn at the same time. The games and quizzes enhance your child's learning while letting them earn StarCoins and Fame. I actually opened my own account, but I don't get a chance to play very often. I did it because my girls wanted me to, and who am I to deny my kids some play time with mom. I prefer we have playtime off the computer--which is what we have more days than not--but it's fun to them to chat with me while I sit in  my office and they are in their bedrooms.

        Rosman's article mentioned a few apps and sites I hadn't heard of before: KidzVuz, Playground, Versagram and Everloop. I knew when Santa brought each girl an iPod Touch our lives were bound to change. Some nasty text messages got sent back and forth between friends. The device has had to be taken away a couple of times for viewing videos on YouTube I would rather they not see. Overall, the girls have been responsible with their devices, but it's definitely made me even more concerned about what they have access to.

        What sites do your kids frequent? Are there any you would recommend? How about sites to avoid?

        New No-Nonsense Nutrition Laws Could Hurt Cash-Strapped Schools, PTOs, and Booster Clubs

        Though I am politically active, I don't talk politics much at my blog. As a family-friendly site, however, I think it's important to discuss topics that could impact families. A new proposed law in Massachusetts could have a negative impact on schools, PTOs/PTAs and booster clubs that are already hurting in this tough economy.

        In an effort to combat childhood obesity, the Departments of Public Health and Education wish to outlaw bake sales from Massachusetts public schools as of August 1st. According to this article published in the Boston Herald, it will also remove whole milk and white bread.

        Parents and PTO/PTA groups have been vocal in their criticism. According to the article, "state officials are also pushing schools to expand the ban 24/7 to include evening, weekend and community events such as banquets, door-to-door candy sales and football games." Being a member of a PTO for many years, I can see why. Candy bars, bake sales, and cookie dough fundraisers are regular staples in our school district.

        The article quotes State Sen. Susan Fargo (D-Lincoln), chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “If we didn’t have so many kids that were obese, we could have let things go." Furthermore, she states, "this is a major public health problem and these kids deserve a chance at a good, long healthy life.”

        While I agree every kid deserves the chance at a good, long healthy life, what is the next step--regulating what groceries we buy? Don't laugh, it's not that far off if a bill like this can pass. I'm definitely not opposed to improving the offerings for school lunches, but the fundraising arms for schools need to be allowed to implement proven strategies that bring in much needed cash. Yes, there are alternative fundraising ideas; one of our schools tried this environmentally friendly option, but what brings in quick cash are things like bake sales. If they didn't work, they would have been abandoned long ago.

        There are two other aspects to this proposition that are equally important. The first is loss of jobs. In a struggling economy is it wise to put more people out of work? What do state officials think will happen once school and sports fundraising committees are forced to seek alternative methods? Without their support, fundraising companies would have a reduced demand, which could lead to layoffs. Does Massachusetts need that when the job market is finally showing some improvement in the Commonwealth?

        The other aspect is an ongoing problem where the government feels the need to decide what is best for all of us. What makes this country great is our freedom of choice. Take that away, and we're no different than any other country suffering under a dictator's rules. Trying to pass a law that regulates what food can be sold by school PTOs and booster clubs takes away their freedom of choice. It also masks the real problem: parents not helping their children make good choices.

        Our family went to Golden Corral over the weekend--not my choice. The Lil Diva (10) has a huge sweet tooth and wanted to try out the chocolate fountain. She ate a good meal and was allowed to visit the chocolate fountain twice. The first time, she chose two marshmallows and one strawberry to dip. The second, she went for two more strawberries. The Lil Princess (8) also opted for a chocolate covered marshmallow the first trip up, but didn't dip her Rice Krispies® treat on her next visit. Could they both have eaten more from the dessert table? Yes! But just like my husband and I don't fill up on sweets, the girls are being taught by example not to overindulge. That's our responsibility as parents. If parents opt not to take that responsibility, the government's role isn't to force it upon them. The government wasn't created to ensure we make the right choices in life. It was created to prevent anarchy and dictatorship. It was created to prevent a vocal minority from overrunning the majority. 

        Right now it seems a vocal minority is trampling the majority with its good intentions.

        Tuesday, May 8, 2012